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On sexual consent, only yes means yes

BY REBECCA KOONS | APRIL 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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In an age in which sex and gender debates are still brewing, Harry Brod hopes to be a guiding light.

The professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa has run the lecture circuit before, and he is ready to unleash more thoughtful ideas regarding some of his main topics of study and interest: male antiviolence and gender equality.

Brod will present his lecture, titled “Beyond ‘But We Were Both Drinking’: The Ethics and Erotics of Sexual Consent” at 7 p.m. in C20 Pomerantz Career Center. Admission is free.

Sexual consent is something that many people are not sure how to clearly define. Brod comes to college campuses armed with the knowledge and capacity to thoroughly discuss what sexual consent means (only yes means yes) and how to recognize when it is or isn’t present.

The New York-native earned a master’s and doctorate in philosophy from the University of California-San Diego, and he has taught at UNI for 11 years. With Brod, the concept of engaging and involving those around him in intellectual conversation is one that is a constant in his professional endeavors.

“Teaching students, especially in philosophy is about engaging them with challenging ideas, and I find that very rewarding,” he said.

Aside from his work as a professor, he is also involved in what is called the pro-feminist men’s movement. This political organization consists of men who make common cause with women as allies in the struggle for gender justice. As one of the national representatives of the group, Brod has been supporting and organizing events and conferences for gender equality and antiviolence for many years.

Presentation is key for Brod — he gives his lectures all over the country. Both at the beginning and end of a lecture, he will strike up conversation and share his own personal views regarding consent.

His intent is to focus on college campus activity, particularly with students.

“The first task is to present the questions to get students to think about it on their own,” Brod said. “Hopefully, they will leave thinking about how to be more ethical with each other.”

Jerrod Koon, the coordinator of the UI Men’s Antiviolence Council, has seen Brod speak several times, each with something new to learn.

“With the recent change in our sexual-misconduct policy, I think every student, faculty, and staff could benefit from this information,” Koon said. “If you don’t understand or can’t explain what affirmative consent means, then you can’t be sure you have it.”

Such information can prove invaluable to any person caught in a situation that brings up a matter of sexual consent. However, Brod said, it is not his job to preach right and wrong, but rather to educate and promote healthy discussion of an otherwise sensitive issue.

“I try to put forth a positive model about how we can relate to each other,” he said. “I’m not talking about punishments and sanctions and laws, but instead holding out for consideration what ethical standards we want to hold ourselves to.”


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